[The Works of Danny Boyle]

I haven’t written about the other National Theatre Live broadcasts I’ve seen this year — they may be shown at the cinema, but they aren’t films — but I did want to mention Frankenstein. SIFF Cinema made a weekend of it, showing three days of double features from Danny Boyle as well as both filmed versions of the play.

Starring Jonny Lee Miller & Benedict Cumberbatch, switching the roles of Victor and the Creature from night to night, Frankenstein has been an extremely popular production both at the National and in broadcast around the world. There are plenty of reviews all over the web from people who know far more about theatre than I do, but I will say that I thought the device of telling the story from the point of view of the Creature was quite effective.

The first version I saw had Miller as the Creature and Cumberbatch as Victor. It hadn’t occurred to me until then, but Cumberbatch was quite obvious casting after his success with “Sherlock Holmes”*. Both characters are men who fancy themselves gods. Miller is also a more physical actor, so he was a more natural choice for the Creature.

All the same, it was interesting to see that switched up two days later, with a more poetic Creature & a more physical Victor. I’m glad I got the chance to see both. The rest of the cast was also marvelous, particularly Naomie Harris as Elizabeth.

All of this was a great excuse to have a weekend of Danny Boyle films, and the perfect opportunity use up my last batch of SIFF Cinema vouchers. Win win!

Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, and Shallow Grave I have all seen before on DVD, but it was great to see them all again on the big screen. 28 Days Later in particular benefited from being shown in the theater; the epic shots of an empty London deserve the big screen.

Sunshine is the only selection I’ve seen in the theater before, and is one of the very few scifi films that I love. I was disappointed that the presentation was on Blu-ray rather on film; the image pixelated in some scenes, which is one of the many ways that digital projection drives me up a wall. All the same, it’s better to see Sunshine on Blu-ray in the theater than at home on my 32 inch TV. So it goes.

Millions is the only feature I hadn’t seen before, though I have read the book. It’s Boyle’s family film and is just ridiculously charming. So is the book 🙂 (Also, it was charming in spite of the fact that I recently saw James Nesbitt in “Jekyll”, and so he makes me a little nervous.)

They also ran two of Boyle’s short films, which was a treat even in low resolution. Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise stars Timothy Spall as a vacuum cleaner salesman / force of nature, and Strumpet is a magical, a modern fairy tale starring Christopher Eccleston and Genna G as two talented people who find greater scope for their art in each other, only to clash with the forces of the music industry.

*I didn’t actually like “Sherlock Holmes”, though that is a post for another day and perhaps another blog.

[Arboring Film at Northwest Film Forum]

As a part of their 15th anniversary celebration, last week the Northwest Film Forum ran the Arboring Film series. For $15 I could buy a pass for a week of films that had their roots, as it were, in support provided by the Film Forum. I only made it to six of the fifteen features, but it was very much worth my time.

* Off Your Rocker was described as “rough around the edges” in the series program guide, and here’s the thing. If the Film Forum is describing it that way, it must be *seriously* rough. And it was. A pseudo documentary about an underground club serving as a sort of Make-a-Wish organization for the elderly, it was a fantastic concept limited by a lot of elements in its execution. I’d love to see someone with more resources have a go at a remake, but all the same, the senior stunts that actually appeared in the film — the high speed chase & the go-cart racing — made it worth my time.

* It was followed by Naked Proof, which I enjoyed a lot. It’s an unconventional little story about a PhD candidate with an overdue dissertation and a sudden and strange responsibility for an unknown pregnant woman. The narrator is played by writer August Wilson, in what is probably his only film appearance, and appearances by locals Matt Smith & Charles Mudede make this a clearly Seattle production. Also, scenes in the Lemieux library made me desperately miss some aspects of undergrad. Who knew?

* I’m a sucker for any documentary about a subculture, and though it’s a common subgenre now, Bingo was one of the first. It’s directed by the writer/director behind Outsourced (which is now apparently a sitcom, because the world is very strange), is fun to watch, and does exactly what it says on the tin.

* First Aid for Choking is a feature set in Moscow, Idaho, following the lead’s attempts to either get out of town or at least put her past behind her, neither of which is a simple task with small town ties reeling you back in.

* Brand Upon the Brain is the main reason I bought a pass in the first place. Guy Maddin on the big screen is a must-see, and if you’re going to pay for one film, you might as well get a pass & stretch yourself a bit. That’s my thinking, anyway. It turned out to be one of Maddin’s more accessible features, and of course another mythic story of his childhood. This time, his parents ran a “mom and pop orphanage” in a lighthouse on an island. Like you do. There’s a mystery! Teen detectives! Mad scientists! Lots and lots of references to Twelfth Night, which I am a sucker for. Good times! Someday I’ll actually see a Maddin film with Maddin narrating. And then I will just keel over, dead of awesome. Also, it’s notable that it was a Seattle film, because most (all?) of Maddin’s other work happens in Winnipeg.

* We Go Way Back was the final film of the series. I was a little unsure of it going in, as I am the only person in Seattle who hated Humpday, but I was pleasantly surprised. I think it’s IMDb rating is really unfair. It’s a gentle story of a 23 year old taking a closer look at where her life is going, and what her 13 year old self would have thought of it. At 23 she’s an actress, and the film is set against a production of Hedda Gabler, perfect in local theater awfulness.

The only film I missed that I really wanted to see was Police Beat, but it was showing the same night & time as The Apartment over at the Metro Classics series, and I am only human. Still, it’s most awesome to live in a town where a difficult decision like that even has to be made.

[DVD through March]

* First off, did I forget to post about For the Bible Tells Me So? I am thinking I did! Fail. Every year at the film festival there are movies I hear about in line, but never manage to see. For the Bible Tells Me So was 07’s, and now I understand why. I’ve seen a lot of queer-themed documentaries, and even a few others on gays-and-religion, but this one was easily the best. American-focused, of course.

* On a recommendation from a friend, I queued Shackleton, the story of the 1914 trip of the Endurance to the South Pole. Beautifully filmed & acted. It is long, yes, but I thought it was well-paced. I have to admit I was particularly taken with all the scenes including the men singing, showing how they passed the time at sea. Also, I have to give a shout-out to Matt Day who played the photographer Frank Hurley. He’s in one of my favorite comfort movies, the criminally underrated Love and Other Catastrophes (which seriously needs to come out on DVD soon, before my VHS wears out.) Oh! It was also neat to see it after going to the Maritime Museum in Greenwich this summer — they have the replica of the James Caird used in the film.

* The Lion in Winter was utterly delicious. I’m just sorry that there wasn’t a revival of it to pair with last winter’s big screen adventure with Becket.

* Kiss of Death was in my queue already after Noir City, but I bumped it to the top after the death of Richard Widmark in late March. It’s a solid enough noir on its own, but (as everyone knows) it’s Widmark’s portrayal of the villain Tommy Udo that makes it particularly worth seeing.

* The week after Widmark passed, his Night and the City director Jules Dassin died, so Rififi moved on up the queue. I wrote a bit about Dassin on the ephemeral blog already, but in between the two films, he was blacklisted, which is why Rififi was filmed in France. It’s *the* classic heist film, worth seeing for lots of things, but in particular for the heist itself, something like a half hour with no dialogue but an excellent score. Um. No pun intended. This is not a hijinks sort of heist movie. It’s very dark.

* The Best of Youth was a six hour Italian film, originally aired on television in four parts, and then as an edited version in the theater. I am a total sucker for any sort of epic family history piece, and this was beautiful and satisfying. Also, I might now have a bit of a crush on Luigi Lo Cascio.

* Toy Story, I realize, is sort of a random selection, but I’m in a group on Ravelry that’s working through the AFI Top 100. I actually hadn’t seen it in years, possibly not since shortly after it came out on video, and I was surprised to see how well it stands up. The animation is still strong (my favorite bits being the details like scuff marks at the bottom of doors), the story has a lot of great stuff going on, and probably the use of classic toys helps it feel all the more timeless. But the thing I noticed most about it this time around is that Andy’s is a single parent household. His mom cares for him & his sister, maintains a gorgeous home, plans his birthday and the family move, and there’s never a mention of a father. So cool!